BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – A satellite the size of a cereal box is heading into space. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder designed the CUTE or Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment satellite.

It has a seven-month mission to track the physics around extremely hot planets. The satellite launced on the back of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California. The satellite, according to principal mission investigator Kevin France, cost around $4 million and is only about as big as a “family-sized box of Cheerios.”

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(credit: University of Colorado)

CUTE will then enter orbit around Earth, aiming sensors at a series of exoplanets called “hot Jupiters.” These planets are large hot gas giants. CUTE’s goal is to give scientists a better understanding of how these planets form.

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(credit: University of Colorado)

This is one in a series of missions spearheaded by the CU Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. LASP has developed many other CubeSat missions to explore a gamut of things like solar activity to supernovae in far-off galaxies.

(credit: University of Colorado)

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This is the first time a satellite this small has looked so far away as NASA tried to see just how much information these CUTE satellites can retrieve.

Jennifer McRae